London minicab firm Addison Lee is on target to take £20m in bookings through its iPhone app in 2011, having received £1.4m through the app in June.
Bookings via its iPhone app now account for around 11% of Addison Lee's total bookings, with more than 47,000 people having used it. Since its launch in January 2010, the app has achieved more than 70,000 downloads and brought in £10m worth of bookings, said the company.
The company's stated turnover is £80m, which means the iPhone app has added 20% to the bottom line in just six months.
Taxi bookings through mobile apps a rising trend
Peter Ingram, Addison Lee's IT director, said: "Most customers now use smartphones with GPS and we have seen a huge surge in demand for mobile app bookings. We have recently been testing our Blackberry and Android Apps and getting very positive feedback from customers via Twitter, so we are confident that both new versions of the iPhone app will be a big success."
The app allows users to enter their address via the phone's GPS, which integrates with Google Maps and the taxi firm's booking and dispatch system to provide address verification, instant pricing quotes and allocates jobs to drivers.
"Around 99% of our iPhone bookings go through the system in an entirely automated process. The first human contact we have with the customer is when the driver says 'Hello' and opens the door for the passenger," said Ingram.
Technology performs call centre functions
Addison Lee's proprietary enterprise IT system, Shamrock, manages the whole booking, allocation and payment process. Development on the system began in 2003. Significantly, all iPhone bookings go through Shamrock in the same way as a call centre system booking.
Shamrock uses a computerised allocator, which looks at the most efficient car to send out. A spokesperson for Addison Lee said: "We use computers to do the work of human controllers. The human controllers work by exceptions. The computer system is driving the business."
Shamrock comprises multiple databases, a separate application layer and a separate presentation layer. The system publishes the internal components as an application programming interface which enables the iPhone app to communicate with the various Addison Lee databases and applications.
Addison Lee says the iPhone app interacts with the system in the same way as a call centre agent would process a booking by phone, since the call centre application and the iPhone app use the same APIs. The iPhone is just a presentation layer offering the same functionality as the call centre.
The Addison Lee iPhone app business process
1. Customer is identified according to booking type. For account customers, the iPhone app checks with the API and requests relevant ID information (account number, PIN, etc).
2. Address is typed or found via GPS. This address is then verified with Addison Lee's back-end Shamrock system through an API, to verify the address and corresponding latitude/longitude. The same process is used for the drop-off location.
3. Once the journey is verified, the iPhone app calls an API to obtain a quote from Shamrock, which gives a fixed price for area to area.
4. Once the user confirms the job, the phone calls the Shamrock API to create a job on the system. SMS and e-mail notifications are then sent direct by Shamrock.